The British Museum has assembled a collection of luxurious items to show us the real truth that while the Greeks did initially reject Persian ideals, they ended up adopting much of the Persian concept of luxury and by the time of Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia a lot of its customs had been assimilated into Greek life.
Nowhere is this more obvious than the rhytons - elaborate drinking horns from the Persian Achaemenid empire. These beautifully designed objects, ornamented with animals and figures, were used to pour drink into a plate or bowl that a ruler would sup from in a rather delicate balancing act.
Occasionally the Persians would leave a Greek ruler in place once they had conquered a city as they did with Arbinas in Lycia. A frieze shows that he adopted the thick beard of his Persian rulers and drank in their style, even if he retained his Greek fashion sense. Fast forward a few hundred years and the Greeks made their own rhytons as seen in the Panagyurishte treasure of Thrace -- it’s a collection of such dazzling items in glistening gold that their after images will be burned into the retinas of visitors.
There’s a lot more than drinking horns on display, including a stunning gold wreath and a cuneiform tablet with an ancient life hack showing how purple dye can be made cheaply so those outside of royalty can afford it. The exhibition also shows how certain masculine traits in Persia were not socially acceptable for Greek men, so Greek women adopted the use of kohl as an eyeliner and the use of parasols.
Culture is always being assimilated and the museum shows how Persian luxury left a lasting legacy on Greek values, while letting visitors gaze at beautiful and fascinating objects. It’s the type of exhibition The British Museum does very well and this one’s another hit.
Second and third images copyright the trustees of The British Museum.
|Luxury and power: Persia to Greece, The British Museum, review
|British Museum, Great Russell St, London, WC1B 3DG | MAP
|Tottenham Court Road (underground)
04 May 23 – 13 Aug 23, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
|Click here for more information and to book